I bought the black synthetic stock with stainless barrel and went with open sights -- no scope. I also got the thumbhole stock -- just because it felt so natural when shouldering. I really like the thumbhole stock -- worth the extra $80.
Loading the first time is pretty simple. I did get an explanation, but I could have figured it all out without the explanation -- very simple.
I was pleased with the out of the box accuracy of my first shots. I had to make just 1 left/right adjustment of about 2 inches at 50 yards and was able to get a nice, tight group at 50 yards and 100 yards.
Cleaning is also pretty easy. I did have to get an extension for the rod to make it easier to push a patch through the barrel -- that helped. Otherwise very simple and easy to clean.
My only issue was I had one semi misfire that I think was caused by me loading the rifle indoors and then taking it out into 20 degree weather and back inside during the noon break. I am guessing I had a little condensation which caused my powder to get a touch wet. I did notice more cleaning was needed after that shot than normal, so I am guessing the powder was just a touch wet.
My next shot, however, brought down my first MN buck with a muzzleloader! It hit right in the boiler room and I saw the buck run < 30 yards and tip over. The double lung shot with a 295 grain Power Belt did the trick.